What to see in Cambodia

Kid riding water buffalo in Koh Rong

Besides the Portrait of Cambodia that I’m writing, I promised before a post about things to do as a tourist in Cambodia. I’ve spent more than two weeks working full-time on it, but hopefully it will be worth. About my opinions of tourist places you can be sure I’m not going to tell you that something is awesome if I think it’s a fucking shit. I really hate those websites that say how impressive and wonderful is a touristy place just because everybody says that. When anybody talks exaggeratedly about how amazing is anything we use to nod and confirm what was said. So even when we think that it’s not so special, we’ll enhance those virtues up to the point of convince ourselves that what in other moment we thought it was silly it’s indeed amazing and we must recommend it to everybody.

And following this line of thoughts I repeat what I’ve already said once about the tourism: we don’t live our own experiences, but a commercialized copy of other people’s experiences.

 

Warning: No, it’s not a short post, it’s a tourist guide about Cambodia adorned with my Navarradas, that is with my own feelings and experiences. The main objective is not only that you read it (maybe in several days) to know more about what I’ve done here, but you also keep it as a reference and share it with your contacts and in the social networks. So with your permission I’ll elaborate on it grin

In order to make it easier for reading I let you here an interactive index/summary. Continue reading

The 4000 islands of Mekhong

Si Phan Don

Short, very short was my time in Si Phan Don (literally 4000 islands) named after the numerous islands in that part of the Mekhong, the last one belonging to Laos. Just a couple of weeks ago I was looking forward to leaving the country and now, despite a bad experience in the first island we slept, I feel sorry for not staying more time here enjoying the relax.

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Pakse loop, where the coffee is grown

Coffee beans. Coffee flowers on the background

Although we left Thakhek hitchhiking, the last kilometers we had to take a local bus since it was already dark and we preferred to reach Pakse that day. There we’d perform a similar motorbike loop to the one in Thakhek but only for 2 days and, in my opinion, more interesting. The Pakse loop goes around the Bolaven Plateau, a plateau formed millions of years ago after the eruption of an ancient volcano. This region is famous for its waterfalls and for its coffee (mainly Arabica and Robusta, planted during the French colonial times) which is worldwide exported and it’s an important income for Laotian families. It was mid January and the coffee plants had flowers so driving through the fields we could smell its delicious aroma which reminded me to the sweet jasmine at first. Besides the good moments with my friends in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, this would be with no doubts the best part of my trip around Laos.

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Towards the South of Laos, Phonsavan

Plain of Jars, Site 1 in Phonsavan

After resting in Ban Na I came back to Nong Khiew and met Belén, the Spanish girl who I met in Pai and then again in Luang Prabang. We kept in touch and then moved together towards the South of Laos. We wanted to do it hitchhiking but those days it started to rain and to be a bit colder and we were not very well prepared so finally we took the bus. We’d prefer the East roads but the buses over there were very expensive so it was cheaper and faster to detour by Luang Prabang. Just after arriving to the city we took a bus towards Vietnam (where we met again the Finnish girls) and get off in Phonsavan at 2 in the morning. We had to look for a guest-house in a desert town due to the curfew in Laos.

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Luang Prabang, holiday city

Jumping to the turquoise waters of Kuang Si waterfalls in Luang Prabang

Some years ago there was a TV advertisement in Spain that says “Marina d’Or, holiday city” to promote a holiday resort at the Spanish east coast. And that’s Luang Prabang, a holiday city for families and retired people. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad families and retirees have a place for holidays but honestly, despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is pathetic. Laos is one of the least developed countries in the world, however Luang Prabang (the center) looks like any other western summer city. An island of opulence which badly contrast with the local poverty. Only some few Laotians benefit from that, the rest still scrape by in the outskirts while westerns multiply business focused on westerns maintaining a community not integrated at all with the social and cultural reality of the country.

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Vang Vieng, learning the way

Landscape in Vang Vieng: karst topography

Vang Vieng, a small town on the way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang which has radically changed since 10 years ago when it was a peaceful place of idyllic landscapes and become later a town of drugs and alcohol with no control at all. That finished when 2 years ago the police closed dozens of bars. Now the landscapes are the same, but monetized to the point of exaggeration, and the young and festive atmosphere of backpackers is more moderated but intense though (similar to Pai in Thailand). By the way, in Laos there is curfew at 23:30 for all the business (although some of them bribe the police to avoid it).

That is the atmosphere where I’d change the way that I think about my trip.

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